Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.09.06

D. Domingo-Forasté, Claudius Aelianus: Epistulae et Fragmenta. Stuttgart: Teubner, 1994. Pp. 126. ISBN 3-8154-1005-3.

Reviewed by Heinz-Günther Nesselrath, University of Bern, Switzerland.

Few people would call Aelian a central figure of Greek Literature; nevertheless, there has been a modest revival of interest in his work in recent times. A new text of the Letters appeared in 1974 (see below), a new one of the Varia Historia in 1975, and new translations of this work (into German and French) and of the Historia Animalium (into Spanish) clearly aim to make this author known to a wider audience.1 Domingo-Forasté's (hereafter abbreviated as D.) edition, apart from tackling the Letters, seeks to make again available that part of Aelian's works that was most neglected so far, the fragments of his lost writings, numerous fragments of which have been preserved mostly by the Suda-Lexicon. This is certainly a laudable initiative; but its execution is marred by a number of smaller and bigger shortcomings.

The very first sentence of the Latin preface (p. V-VI) misses the infinitive (explere or supplere) that would have to go with destinata est (which itself sounds rather more like the English 'is destined' than like an appropriate Latin idiom). D. gives some good reasons why Hercher's old edition of Aelian's Letters and fragments should be replaced (an additional manuscript for the Letters now at hand and a more reliable edition of the Suda); but he should not have denied the modern editor of the Suda, Ada Adler, her real gender ("editio Suda [sic!] a A. Adler, viro doctissimo, accuratius confecta ..."). The last reason given by D. for replacing Hercher struck me as rather irrelevant: "adde quod nova typographica forma impressus ... hic liber in manus lectoris iam veniat." Of a manuscript containing parts of three letters (codex Vallicellianus gr. 182) D. asserts: "nullum adiumentum in textu ... recensendo affert"; nevertheless he cites him several times in the apparatus (e.g. on p. 7). 'Conspectus Codicum' and 'Conspectus Librorum' are very much like the corresponding sections in Leone's 1974 edition of the Letters2; in one place D. seems to have translated an Italian remark of Leone's into a Latin howler: on p. VIII Leone's "secondo [i.e. according to] S.F.W.Hoffmann, Bibliographisches Lexikon ..." becomes "secundus [!] S.F.W.Hoffmann ...", and there are other annoying misprints in this section as well.3 In the 'Conspectus Librorum', the subsection 'Cetera' (listing contributions to the constitution of the text) lacks important items; at least A. Meineke, "Ad Aeliani Epistulas," Hermes 1 (1866) 421-426, and U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, "Lesefruechte," Hermes 40 (1905) 170f. should have been included, as both are frequently cited in the apparatus.

Having gotten through the hitches of the introductory section, we approach the main parts of the volume somewhat warily. On p. 1-17, we get the text of the Letters, accompanied by an apparatus similium and an apparatus criticus; all three are open to various criticisms. 1) The text: What, first of all, about the title of this collection of letters? All earlier editions give it as EK TWN AILIANOU AGROIKIKWN EPISTOLWN (apparently attested by the manuscripts); D. has only a laconic 'Epistulae . The short text itself contains too many misprints,4 but otherwise not many new features; in the only place where D. differs from all earlier editions he is probably wrong.5 2) The apparatus similium gives only slightly more (and sometimes less) than the comparable section in Leone s edition; beyond that, some annoying defects have to be noted: Why are all the citations of comic fragments still given according to Kock s edition, when the much better volumes of PCG are at hand? Judging by the date of the preface (1991), D. could not yet have used PCG II which appeared in 1992; but PCG IV came out in 1983, III 2 in 1984, V in 1986 and VII in 1989. For line 5 of Letter 7, "Men. fr. 553.1-2 Kock" is noted; this derives from the Comparatio Menandri et Philistionis, a late compilation (dating to the 4th-6th cent. AD) in which probably not one genuine fragment of Menander can be found.6 In three instances (Letter 15 l. 2-3 and 9-10; Letter 18 l. 9-10) D. provides us with parallels from Kock s Comica Adespota; but if one looks them up in CAF III, one sees that Kock in fact took them from these very passages of Aelian s Letters and slightly changed their wording to get iambic trimeters and thus 'new comic fragments! To have them now paraded as parallels to their own places of origin makes for a wonderfully circular argument (Leone at least noted that these 'fragments were derived "ex hoc loco"). 3) The apparatus criticus, again, provides not much more information than Leone s; in some places it is rather unclear,7 misprints cause additional difficulties,8 and not all conjectures are cited correctly.9

On p. 18 the real pièce de résistance of the book begins: the presentation of the fragments of those works of Aelian either much abbreviated in parts (as the Varia Historia) or completely lost (as PERI PRONOIAS and PERI QEIWN ENARGEIWN). On p. XII a 'Comparatio fragmentorum' shows how D.'s numbers of the fragments relate to those of Hercher10; the changes are caused by the addition of four new fragments and the excision of eight others included in the former edition. The excisions are all justified (half of them are doublets of other fragments of Aelian, the other half belong either certainly or very probably to other authors); of the additions, only the new fr. 322 can stand with some probability, while 25-27 belong to an 'Aelian the Platonist', who cannot be identified with our author -- language, topic and philosophic leaning (Platonic instead of Stoic) are all too different.11

So there is not really much new to be found in the fragment section, either. This, however, would not justify major complaints (after all, no papyrus texts of Aelian have turned up so far), if the presentation of the already known fragments would show significant advances compared with Hercher's; but it does not. It's true we now get the exact numbering of the Suda's lemmata as provided by Adler's edition and an apparatus criticus based on that edition as well; but the text of the fragments is still presented in Hercher's austere and laconic way. Is this really the thing to do after Jacoby's FGrHist and in the time of PCG? Why not give us a bit more context, so that we know why the Suda quoted Aelian (different sizes of type or spacing would help to distinguish the actual quotation from the rest; compare Jacoby)? Moreover, very many of those quotations are given by the Suda without Aelian's name, but D. almost never tells us where Aelian's name is given and where not. How sure can we really be about the fragments given anonymously in the Suda? Sometimes the evidence for an attribution might seem to be rather flimsy: fr. 10, e.g., is presented as consisting of 11 subsections (as provided by various Suda lemmata); of those, only two (10a and 10f) are explicitly ascribed to Aelian's PERI PRONOIAS; among the rest one can see overlapping quotations of word-groups,12 and their connection with 10a and 10f may seem probable, but there is no certainty. The same applies to other fragments presented in subsections (and there is quite a number of them). On the whole, the documentation of such combined fragments leaves much to be desired: all attestations should be written out fully,13 with all overlapping words, so that one could really see how well -- or weakly -- the combination of them is established; as D. presents them now, one has always to look them up in the Suda to see how things really are. Sometimes he gives even less than Hercher did, who provided Latin headings for sections seemingly belonging together (D. only very occasionally gives some Greek ones).

I add a few observations on single fragments. 5: D. gives the last word as LAMPRO/TATOS, which seems to be a leftover from Hercher's text, for the apparatus reveals (confirmed by a look into Adler's edition) that the Suda manuscript have only LABRO/THTA and LABRO/TATOS, the last of which gives a perfect sense.14 - 22b: The whole section LE/GEI DE\ -- *GORGO/NA (l. 5-10) is not Aelian himself but rather an explanation of the quotation from his work that goes before. - 24: Already Adler in her Suda edition stated that the Aelian quotation here begins only with *KALLIGO/LAS O( *GA/IOS in l. 5. - 44a: There are in fact not one, but two quotations in the relevant Suda article (e 126), divided by KAI\ AU)=QIS (before E)/LEGE DE\ ... in l. 4); no hint of this is given by D. - 48b: The Aelian quotation here begins actually a few words before the text set out by D. (A)NADH/SEIN STEFA/NW| XRUSOU= PEPOIHME/NW|. KAI\ OI( *SAMO/QRA|KES ...), as again already Adler remarked. - 53d: H)REMI/A| in l. 2 is once more a relic of Hercher's text; according to the Suda edition, the right word is E)RHMI/A|. - 55c: in l. 3, D. presents A)POSFAGE/NTOS AU)TOU= within pointed brackets, as if it were a modern insertion; he might have told the reader that the words come out of another attestation of this fragment in the Suda.

One could go on like this, but the picture should be clear by now: Apart from general defects in the presentation of the fragments, annoying instances of carelessness come to light when one looks at the fragments in detail; being careful is indeed not one of D.'s strong sides.15 He has not used the immense advantages Adler's Suda edition gave him over Hercher's edition to their full extent (for Adler has suggested in many places in her apparatus where other fragments of Aelian could lurk or where former 'discoveries' might have to be discarded); he has done nothing to distinguish the more certain from the less certain ones; he has not produced a 'state of the art' fragment edition, as it might be expected at the end of the 20th century. In short, the disappointing conclusion must be, that at least for Aelian's fragments the work has to be done all over again.


  • [1] Varia historia, ed. M.R. Dilts, Leipzig 1974; Aelian, Bunte Geschichten, aus dem Griechischen übertragen und mit einem Nachwort versehen von H. Helms, Leipzig 1990; Elien, Histoire variée, trad. et commenté par A. Lukinovich et A.-F. Morand, Paris 1991; Historia de los animales, I: Libros I-VIII; II: Libros IX-XVII, introd., trad. y notas de J.M. Díaz-Regañon López, Madrid 1984.
  • [2] Claudii Aeliani Epistulae rusticae, ed. P.A.M. Leone, Milano 1974.
  • [3] On p. VII, a wrongly introduced new paragraph in the documentation of the codex Matritensis confronts the reader with something at first utterly unintelligible; only when one eliminates the wrong "=" after 1465 and continues the line behind "a", can one decipher what is meant: "cod. Matritensis ... scr. 1460 - 1465 a Constantino Lascaris ..." On p. VIII, line six from bottom, "Pariis" must be changed into "Parisiis" and line four from bottom, "editio alter" into "editio altera".
  • [4] p. 4 l. 12 read Y(POMNHSQW= instead of Y(PONHSQW=; p. 10 l. 2 (ep. 14) PROSDIALE/GESQAI instead of PRODIALE/GESQAI; p. 11 l. 1 SE/ instead of SE, l. 3 a colon instead of a full stop, l. 14 SE/ instead of SE\; p. 13 l. 4 GE/NWMAI instead of GE/NOMAI.
  • [5] In Letter 18, p. 15 l. 6f., D. reads MIKRA\ EI)=PE XAI/REIN ..., MIKRA\ being the reading of cod. M; all other editors (with cod. S and the Aldine edition) have MAKRA\ EI)=PE XAI/REIN, which should be right, because MAKRA\ XAI/REIN (usually with LE/GEIN or E)A=N) is a well-known idiom (while MIKRA\ XAI/REIN is not) and makes much better sense here.
  • [6] See Koerte's Preface in his edition of Menander's fragments (vol. II p. VII f., Leipzig 1953); Koerte excluded the whole of the Comparatio from his collection.
  • [7] It needs some hard thinking to decipher the information given (in rather enigmatic Latin) to Letter 5, line 16-17: "TH\N PLA/NHN AU)TW=N] S supra lineam correcta AU)TA\S S". With the help of Leone's apparatus, one gathers that S first had only AU)TA\S, then added TH\N PLA/NHN above the line and corrected AU)TA\S into AU)TW=N (a similar cryptic "supra lineam correcta" appears in the apparatus to Letter 8 l. 13). Insertions of words proposed by scholars could have been more unequivocally stated (see app. on L. 3 l. 7; L. 17 l. 4; L. 18 l. 11).
  • [8] In app. to L. 6 l.3 read POI= instead of POI, in app. to L. 15 l. 23 NOOU=NTOS instead of NOOU=TOS.
  • [9] The app. to L. 13 l. 4 states that Meineke wanted to change KALH\N into GALHNH\N; but Meineke actually wanted to do more, viz. add. E)RGA/TAIS before KALH\N / GALHNH\N, while Hercher proposed GEWRGOI=S before KALH\N in his edition of 1866.
  • [10] D. should have given Hercher's numbers as well behind his new ones in the text; now it is rather tiring to find fragments cited in older literature in his text.
  • [11] See R. Goulet, Ailianos le platonicien, in R. Goulet (ed.), Dictionnaire des Philosophes Antiques I, Paris 1994, 78 (no. 60); H. Dörrie - M. Baltes, Der Platonismus in der Antike III, Stuttgart - Bad Cannstatt 1993, 217.
  • [12] It would have been interesting and useful to try to reconstitute the original structure of the text by working with the overlaps.
  • [13] All too many are only referred to in footnotes.
  • [14] Perhaps the adverb LABRO/TATA was the original reading; it would suit the context even better.
  • [15] To add a few more (and rather serious) misprints: in the Greek heading above fr. 10a (p. 20), read E)KNEURISQE/NTOS (instead of E)KNOU-); in the Greek heading above fr. 12a (p. 23), read *MILHSI/AS (instead of *MILE-); in fr. 22c (p. 27), the Suda lemma is pi 3, not 2; in fr. 44f (on p. 41) it is beta 587, not 487. The rest of the fragment section would reveal probably more like this.